March 18, 2009
Review in a Hurry: This oppressively earnest piece of Oscar bait-with Harrison Ford as an immigration officer conveniently at the center of every ethnic drama in L.A.-was rightfully left to thrash around on the hook.
The Bigger Picture: Writer-director Wayne Kramer struggles to depict all sides of the immigration issue in this sprawling Los Angeles-based melodrama. The topic is fraught with ethical dilemmas-the tension between opportunity and resources, assimilation, cultural clashes...oh, I could go on! But Kramer avoids zeroing in on any single controversy and opts for the scattershot approach.
Crossing Over zips among every ethnic group with a representation in the U.N. You got the Persians, the Japanese, the Mexicans, the Arabs, the Bangladeshis-hell, even the Aussies make an appearance. Having this multiculti kaleidoscope of traumas is a sympathetic idea, but the reliance on laughably two-dimensional characters makes the execution embarrassing.
Now, all these different ethnic clans tangentially intersect with Max Brogen (Ford), a Scotch-swilling grizzled immigration officer with a frosty demeanor but a warm spot for migrant women. Max and his partner-a well-to-do Americanized Iranian immigrant-hunt and help (in their own questionable ways) different characters desperate to stay in the U.S.
Their tribulations crisscross with those of a dedicated immigration lawyer (Ashley Judd) and a brutish naturalization bureaucrat (Ray Liotta). And true to the current trend (Traffic, Crash, Babel) all these disparate stories merge together in a final scene! What a refreshing dynamic!
Ford's wooden style feels disengaged, while the ensemble cast of unknowns go at their parts with high-decibel veracity. The fresh-faced supporting players do a fair amount of scenery chewing, but they give the film an authentic and poignant tone. It's a shame their efforts will be eclipsed by this ham-handed fiasco.
The 180-a Second Opinion: Crossing Over follows in the same tradition of Crash and Traffic, and though it's a fatally flawed movie, it has more heart and complexity than those other Important Films